During my fourth year of medical school my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. I was so excited I told everyone I knew right away, not even considering all the ways a pregnancy can go wrong.
Despite debilitating nausea, things seemed to proceed smoothly until 16 weeks when I received a phone call from my OB’s office telling me my triple screen results had come back suspicious for a neural tube defect and I needed an ultrasound that afternoon. Neural tube defects, otherwise known as spina bifida, have varying degrees of severity, ranging from very mild issues to anencephaly (aka lack of brain). I spent the remainder of the morning praying for the milder end of the spectrum and hoping the screen was wrong.
When we finally went in for our ultrasound the tech was very quiet and focused intently on the spine, but was unable to see anything suspicious looking. I asked the tech and she said I would need to talk to my doctor, but the levels of amniotic fluid seemed very low. I immediately understood what that meant and started sobbing. My OB referred me to a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctor with an appointment 3three days later. Lucky me, it was a Friday and I had a residency interview the following Monday, so Tuesday was our earliest opportunity.
After the longest weekend of my life, we arrived at the MFM’s office for our Level II ultrasound, where the diagnosis of Potter’s syndrome was made. Potter’s syndrome is a collection of characteristics caused by severe oligohydramnios (lack of amniotic fluid) and is incompatible with life. After 16 weeks gestation the fetal kidneys begin to produce amniotic fluid, which bathes the baby and supplies the environment in which the lungs develop. A baby might survive without functioning kidneys, but not without lungs.
An additional confirmatory ultrasound was done at my request two days later. At 17 weeks 1 day, on December 8, 2006, I went into a hospital in San Antonio, TX and delivered my firstborn and only daughter, Annabelle. I was fortunate to have insurance which covered my abortion and an OB and hospital available where I could have the procedure done. I was also lucky enough to have friends and family who supported me every step of the way.
I will never be the same for having had an abortion and for having lost a baby who I so desperately wanted, but it was absolutely the right decision for myself and my baby. Annabelle might have survived to be born at term, at which time she would have slowly suffocated. I have never doubted my decision to spare her pain for a second. My abortion was done for medical reasons, as are many abortions later in pregnancy. The decision to have an abortion is one that should involve a pregnant woman and her doctor–NOT the legislature. Remember that someone you know may need a choice.